Response to Community Comments Regarding Staff Wages & Levy Funding

Monday, January 10, 2022

In September, the Kitsap Regional Library Board began receiving letters from our community, sharing concerns regarding staff compensation. We are grateful to you for showing up and sharing your expectations for what you would like Kitsap Regional Library to stand for.

We acknowledge that a detailed response has been delayed. The Board of Trustees has purposefully chosen to limit our response out of respect for the ongoing, active bargaining process taking place between Kitsap Regional Library and our non-management staff labor union, Washington Public Employees Association (WPEA). It was also imperative for us to do our due diligence to assure a clear, transparent and, most importantly, factual response.

After reviewing the Library's budget history and the promises made during the levy, we are choosing to provide a more detailed response, given the level of misinformation being communicated.

Fair and Equitable Pay Increases

In 2017, the Library promised to improve wages for staff, and since the levy's passage in November 2017, we have taken great care to support our Library staff and their families.

Over the last four years, all staff wages have raised by a minimum of 9%, with the majority of staff receiving increases of 20% or more.

With new revenue provided by the levy in 2018, the promise to improve wages was the Library's most pressing priority. All staff received an immediate 2% increase, and the Library, committed to ensuring an equitable and responsible approach to wage increases, contracted Cabot Dow Associates to conduct an independent compensation study.

To determine new pay ranges aligned with the regional library industry and our Kitsap community, wages were compared to neighboring library systems similar in population and budget sizes, such as Tacoma Public Library and Whatcom County Library, along with local public organizations, such as Kitsap County and the Central Kitsap School District.

In 2019, the implementation of the findings of this study resulted in an increase in wages for all staff by an average of 9.47%. Beyond wage increases, the Library also:

  • Raised non-intern, entry-level positions minimum wage above $15 an hour.
  • Created an opportunity for all staff to qualify for full benefits by increasing hours for part-time staff.
  • Raised annual salary step increases from 2% to 3%.
  • Increased the pay of Librarians above compensation study recommendations.

Since the compensation study implementation, the Library has remained committed to these wage improvements, providing yearly cost-of-living and salary step increases.

 

 

Cost-of-living

Salary Step

Total Annual Increase

2019

1%

3%

4%

2020

2%

3%

5%

2021

1%

3%

4%

2022

4%

3%

7%

 

Because of this growth, staff wages and benefits now account for nearly 80% of the Library's total annual operating costs. This investment is the fulfillment of the Library's 2017 levy promise.

Further, the Library faced the real uncertainty of whether funding would continue to be stable as the pandemic unfolded. The Library took the principled step of doing everything possible to make certain no hardships were created for our Kitsap Regional Library families. Projects and critical positions went unfilled, and, despite significant closures, no staff was furloughed or laid off during 2020 and 2021.

Delivering on All our Levy Promises

As the governing body of Kitsap Regional Library, we take our stewardship responsibility seriously. It is our duty to be creative, resourceful and responsible with all our community has entrusted us with—the Library's spaces, collections, funding and staff—to ensure the sustainability of all of our libraries both now and in the future.

In 2017, after many years of constrained budgets, the Library had fallen behind. Aging facilities needed critical maintenance, hours had been reduced, our public and staff were using outdated technology and our collection had diminished. With levy funding, we promised to improve and preserve Library buildings and invest in the programs, technology and collections that are the cornerstone of our Library's services.

With 20% of the operating budget (approximately $3.5 million in 2022) available after staffing costs, the Library maintains and supports 9 locations, a collection to serve more than 270,000 people and numerous personalized services. Still, the Library has held to its promise, making much-needed updates to extend the life and relevancy of our buildings, services and collections.

Our Commitment Continues

We know we have further to go. On the heels of the compensation study, our Kitsap community began navigating unimaginable housing challenges, a rapidly rising cost of living and a pandemic. Our Library leadership is working hard to partner with WPEA to support staff through the impact of these challenges while balancing the complex needs of the Library.

Again, thank you for providing us with your feedback.

Sincerely,

Kitsap Regional Library Board of Trustees